Hit Parade: Be the One to Walk in the Sun Edition

Cyndi Lauper, the Bangles, and Aimee Mann fought ’80s sexism while riding the major-label rollercoaster.

Thirty-five years ago, in the fall of 1986, women with rock foundations and pop sensibilities were doing quite well on the charts. Three acts in particular were drawing sizable attention—and they were all singing on the same album: Cyndi Lauper’s True Colors, which featured backing vocals by the Bangles and ’Til Tuesday’s Aimee Mann.

It turns out these women had more than that brief coincidence in common. Lauper, Mann, and the Bangles came up at the same postpunk, new-wave moment in ’80s pop. And they fought many of the same battles: record-label machinations, a media that stoked rivalries, whether or not they existed, and a sexist music industry that repeatedly underestimated their skills. In this Hit Parade episode, Chris Molanphy recounts how these women emerged from distinctive rock scenes—from punk-era New York and Boston, to L.A.’s Paisley Underground—then outgrew them. They found critical and commercial acclaim and remain influential decades later, in a variety of media, from Hollywood to Broadway. What forces were they up against, and how did they fight to define themselves?

Podcast production by Asha Saluja.